Utah. Is it truly a ski mecca, with the Greatest Snow on Earth? Phil Osborn explores Utah with his young family in January 2023 to help answer the question.
During the dark days of Covid lockdowns and Australia’s international border closure, my mind would often drift to Utah’s famous mountains we had visited twice previously. As soon as we could get on a plane, we wanted to make up for lost travel and powder time. It’s interesting how the covid years all blend into one, while a short ski trip brings lifelong family memories. The contrast is incredible. Utah’s mountain time is real.
Heading to Sydney International Airport with the family for this trip to Utah, felt so surreal. Sydney’s airport was buzzing with excited people heading all over the globe. Heat wave conditions in Sydney, were about to be replaced with Utah’s best ski season’s ever, with over 800 inches, or 20 metres of snow falling this season! Bring it on!
Salt Lake City – stunning new airport.
Our United Airlines flight from Australia had us transiting, via San Francisco, to Salt Lake City. Arriving in the new Salt Lake City airport is impressive. The new terminal is beautifully designed. With snow falling outside and the view to the Wasatch Mountain Range covered in snow, we immediately knew this trip was going to be special. We smoothly collected our DriveNow hire car from Avis and loaded the kids and gear into the Chrysler mini-van. Our first stop was Park City. Getting used to driving on the right side of the road, in an unfamiliar car, is always a test of skill! With the traffic going at a million miles an hour compared to Sydney, we quickly made it to Park City.
We arrived early enough to go to Woodward Park City. This is a must visit destination, especially with kids. Woodward is about 20 minutes out of Park City, towards Salt Lake City, and is easily accessed from the highway. Woodward’s snow tubing is awesome. Make sure you give it a go. If you are a park rat, the set-up at Woodward for training with foam pits and on-snow park features is next level. Woodward indoor centre is filled with kids skating and BMX riding.
Our arrival in Park City coincided with fresh snow falling across this beautiful ski town. Park City’s character buildings makes this such a perfect ski vacation base for skiers and non-skiers. The glitz and the glam of the Sundance Film Festival was starting to take shape. Park City is such a cool place. The blend of urbane shops, with core ski stores and thriving food scene gives so many access points for great experiences within the old part of town along Main Street. You have to visit here at least once in your life! We loved the rustic pizza store Red Banjo for its relaxed atmosphere and gigantic pizzas. And a daily coffee fix at Harvest was a great start to the day.
Where to Ski – Deer Valley or Park City?
A lot of people don’t realise that Park City is bordered by Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort. Deer Valley is a skiers only mountain. If you are a snowboarder, jump on skis, and you’ll have a blast learning, or re-learning, to ski. Deer Valley has great ski terrain for all levels of abilities. What our family loved was how well the mountain linked together and the stunning views. Our good friend from Australia, Dean Loane has made his life in Park City, and loves skiing and working at Deer Valley. He will welcome you, as you load onto Carpenter’s lift. His infectious zest for life and good times, makes him the perfect host at Deer Valley.
Park City Mountain Resort is huge. It is the US’s largest ski resort. With an excellent lift system to access both Park City and The Canyons resorts, you could easily spend your entire holiday here discovering your favourite terrain. We were lucky to be guided around by Brenda Lytle. Brenda is another Australian who has made her incredible life in Park City. Brenda knows Park City like the back of her hand. So flowing around the mountain with an expert skier, with deep local knowledge is such a cool way to experience this big mountain. Access to Park City accommodation and Main Street is so easy as well. We stayed at Park Station on Park Street. The self-contained 2 bedroom condo was great for self-catering and close proximity to Main Street and accessing lifts to Park City.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is such a great place to base yourself for an epic ski trip. What I love about Salt Lake City, is you have all the vibrancy of a large city, right on the doorstep of some of the World’s best ski resorts. On this trip we stayed in the new Evo Hotel, located downtown. The Evo Hotel, is owned by the highly successful outdoor / ski retail company, also called Evo. The Evo Hotel is like a university campus, with rock climbing walls and indoor skate ramp. Our kids loved the climbing walls and gym. The roof top bar is cool. The rooms are well appointed and comfortable. Salt Lake City offers great value accommodation and great experiences on and off the mountain. We noticed a sign pointing to Snowbasin Resort near Evo Hotel. We discovered accessing Snowbasin Resort was only a 45 minute drive away, which is a similar distance, as driving into the Little or Big Cottonwood Canyons. You can base yourself here and easily ski 10 resorts! On previous trips to Utah we have stayed in Cottonwood Heights, which is closer to accessing the Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. You are spoilt for choice of reasonably priced and high quality accommodation in Salt Lake City.
Snowbasin Ski Resort
Following the sign to Snowbasin was one of our best decisions we made on our US trip. Snowbasin, like every ski resort, has a day you could easily call “the best day of the year!” We think we scored Snowbasin with pretty much perfect conditions. A bluebird day, with loads of fresh snow, no wind and the whole mountain pumping is what dreams are made of. The resort facilities are fabulous at Snowbasin. Think luxury hotel amenities and you are on the money for Snowbasin. Driving away after experiencing epic conditions at Snowbasin had us already planning our next Utah Ski trip!
Little Cottonwood Canyon
One of the best ski destinations in the world, Little Cottonwood Canyon is home to the world famous Snowbird and Alta Resorts. Alta is ski only. Alta has the most north facing ski terrain in North America. It’s an A Grade mountain. Snowbird is steep. It’s the most challenging mountain in Utah in my opinion. Do yourself a favour and make sure you visit these two resorts. On our previous trips to Utah, we have spent days exploring these resorts and can give a 10/10 rating for both resorts.
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Brighton Resort is the core Salt Lake City resort. It’s epic terrain, vibrant park scene make Brighton a popular choice for snowboarders and families. On this trip we chose to ski and ride here. We love shooting through Brightons’s trees and love its playful terrain. Solitude Mountain Resort is located right next door and is owned by Deer Valley. Solitude also has equally incredible terrain, great lifts and is equally as popular with people from Salt Lake City.
How did the family go?
Our kids, aged 10, 12 and 15 loved every aspect of our Utah ski trip. All the ski resorts we visited cater brilliantly for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. The fantastic ski terrain and epic snow has helped their progression as skiers and snowboarders enormously. Utah is a family friendly ski destination. We can highly recommend families consider Utah for their next ski trip. Our kids have created life long memories and fun ski stories to share with their friends.
Is Utah worth visiting?
Utah is indeed a ski and snowboard mecca. With 10 resorts located within an hour of Salt Lake International Airport and 13 World Class resorts across the state…it’s not hard to highly recommend Utah to friends and family. Utah offers great solutions for all budgets as well. You can spend as much, or as little, as you want in Utah on accommodation. It doesn’t matter where you stay, if you are skiing or snowboarding some of the best ski resorts in the world. Do yourself a favour and make sure Utah is on your ski bucket list.
Meet the team from Utah in May for the Snow Travel Expo 2024 in Sydney 19 May and Melbourne 26 May.
For more information on visiting Utah go to: www.skiutah.com
And check Ski Utah’s film clip below for further inspiration: